Exam deferrals more than doubled
Pass rates for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) have remained steady in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, new statistics from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have shown.
For the academic year to August 2020 the LPC pass rate remained consistent with the previous year — 57.7% of students passed in 2019/20 compared to 58% in 2018/19.
Pass rates on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) for the same period were also in line with last year — 58.9% of students passed in 2019/20 compared to 58% in 2018/19.
The regulator’s report on training authorisation and monitoring covers the first five months of the Covid-19 pandemic, from March to August 2020. In March 2020, the SRA relaxed requirements for the teaching and assessment of professional exams including the LPC and GDL, and allowed alternative arrangements such as assessment through coursework and remote proctoring.
The proportion of students choosing to defer their exams more than doubled, according to the SRA’s data. Some 28% of students deferred during 2019/20 compared to 13% during 2018/19 “likely due to candidates choosing to wait to sit assessments face-to-face” or for other pandemic-related reasons.
Across training providers, the LPC achievement gap narrowed slightly compared to last year; the worst performing law school recorded a pass rate of 31%, compared to 23% the year before.
Meanwhile, the top seven providers recorded a 100% pass rate, compared to only two the previous year. The report does not identify the pass rates of each institution.
“There are a number of different factors which may influence pass rates, including candidate ability and engagement, teaching quality and assessment arrangements, but we are unable to draw firm conclusions from the data available,” the SRA said.
Legal education giants BPP University and The University of Law accounted for 81% of all LPC students, sharing 12,233 students between them across different campuses in the academic year to 2020, whilst other providers took fewer than ten students.
The data considered LPC results by ethnicity and found that almost two-thirds (65%) of white students successfully completed the LPC, in comparison with approximately 52% of asian students and 39% of black students.
The SRA collected data on the socio-economic background of LPC candidates for the first time in this year’s report but nearly half answered where they went to school as ‘unknown’.
Some 7% attended a private school and 30% said they went to a state school. The pass rate for those attending private schools was just under 70%, compared to less than 49% for those attending state schools.
Feedback from external examiners was “largely positive about the LPC overall” — though it has been phased out by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam as of September 2021 and the report did note that some providers were “more generous” than others on the administration of assessments as a result of the pandemic. The pass rate of the first SQE1 sit will be released later this month.